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How to use social media in higher education

2018-07-02

By: Kendra Madsen

Higher ed is getting social. With such a large audience, from students, prospective students and faculty to alumni and sports fans, the potential for social media in higher education is huge.

Benefits of social media in higher education

Student recruitment

It's a well-known fact that younger generations use their phones more than older ones. This is where they conduct research on products, services and organizations. Universities can (and should) take advantage of this for recruiting. If universities want to attract students, then they need to have an engaging brand presence online.

Related: How to take charge of your university's branding

Build your brand

Social media can be a powerful tool for building brand awareness. From highlighting new research to showcasing student projects and achievements, higher ed social teams can play a powerful role in attracting potential students, faculty and donors to the university.

Boost student engagement

Engaged students are more likely to stay enrolled and graduate. They are also more likely to become brand advocates encouraging their friends, family and children to participate with your university in the future. Taking a fun or lighthearted approach with content on Instagram or Tik Tok will resonate with students in a way that official announcements won't.

Higher ed social media strategies

Establish your brand

Whether your higher ed team has been using social media for a while or is completely new to it, you should make sure that your brand is well-represented on your social media accounts. You never want potential students to come across your profile and wonder if it's the university's actual account. It should be obvious. Some things that will help establish your brand on social media are:

  • Username/handle: Keep usernames the same across all platforms. This way, students can easily find you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and any other platforms you're on. If you're concerned about being able to register the same username across all platforms (and don't want your handle to end up like @Lucid_press0018), here's a tip. You can create accounts on new social media platforms, even if you don't want to use them yet. Later on, if you find that your audience is using that platform, you'll already have the username.
     * Images: Just as usernames should be the same across platforms, your profile pictures should be easily identifiable. Along with your profile picture, using similar colors (such as school colors) in your images will further affirm your identity. A tip regarding the images you post: choose one or two photo filters that fit your brand, then only use those filters on any images you post. This creates a uniform look for your content that will be recognizable to your audience.

    A great example for establishing your brand on social media is Coca-Cola. All of the Coke accounts feel familiar. Each picture uses a similar filter that's cohesive with their branding, and you can see red in all of their images.
     

Coca-Cola Facebook page

 * Bio: Most social media platforms offer a place to include a bio for your university. Don't waste this space. Bios are an excellent opportunity to show students what's important to the school. You can even include a link to a page where interested students can learn more about the university (for example, by signing up for a newsletter).

 

Stanford bio

 * Tone & voice: Before you start posting, decide what your brand voice will sound like online. Will you be dry and professional? Will you use slang? The same goes for finding the right tone to use in your posts. Will you be happy, neutral, silly, snarky or witty? These decisions will shape your brand as people come to associate that voice with your university.

Speak to your audience

When it comes to social media, go where your audience is. Post content that's designed for the platform and meaningful to them.

  • Use the right networks: Are prospective students using Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook? Find out where your audience is, and start building a presence and community there. Some platforms might seem difficult to use as a university, like Snapchat. This is where you get to be creative and connect with students in innovative ways that no other universities are using.
     * Create content specifically for your audience: What do potential students want to know? Share successes your school has experienced, student activities on campus, tips for prepping for college, what to bring to a new dorm room, what research is happening at your university, etc. Find out what your students are curious about, and create content that'll be interesting and useful to them.

    Harvard University's social media often posts student-related stories that are relatable to other students. By focusing on the students, it shows that they come first at Harvard. Here's an example of a personal story that was shared on the Harvard Facebook page:

Harvard social media

Key takeaways

Social media is no longer a "nice touch" for your higher ed marketing plans; it's essential to establishing your brand online. Build your profiles with consistent usernames and imagery. Create a guide for staff members that includes the colors, photo filters, logos, tone and voice to use in university-branded social media to maintain consistency.

Finally, make sure that you're on the right platforms, sharing content that's engaging for your audience. Use the same voice in comments, personal messages and public posts. Be where your future students are, and give them a reason to notice your university.

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Kendra Madsen

Kendra Madsen is a content marketing intern for Lucidpress. She loves writing, the outdoors, and obsessing over plants. You can connect with Kendra on LinkedIn.

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